Saturday, November 03, 2007
Alaska Supreme Court Guts Part Of Alaska's 1998 "English-Only" Law; Don't Throw Away Those "Piso Mojado" Signs Just Yet
The Alaska Supreme Court was busier yesterday (November 2nd, 2007) than I thought. While most people were preoccupied with the Alaska Supreme Court's assault on family sovereignty, the Court also launched an attack on English language linguistic sovereignty as well. By a 4-1 vote, the Alaska Supreme Court struck down a central provision of a state law passed in 1998 that would require only English be used for all government business, although they let much of the law stand, at least for now. Full story published in the Anchorage Daily News.
The part of the law in question is in the provision defining the scope of the law. The Court objected to the first sentence, which reads: "The English language is the language to be used by all public agencies in all government functions and actions." The Court decided this sentence to be unconstitutional because, in their opinion, it violates federal and state rights of free speech -- for example, the desire by the predominantly-Native interior village of Togiak to conduct some city business and correspondence in Yup'ik.
However, the Court decided that a second sentence, "The English language shall be used in the preparation of all official public documents and records ...", might be saved, as long as it's not interpreted too broadly, and as long as it also allows documents to be offered in other languages.
The Supreme Court decided not to consider other sections of the law at this time, but noted that the rest of the statute would have to be enforced narrowly or other provisions also might be found unconstitutional in future challenges. A lower court found the entire law unconstitutional in 2002, but the state did not appeal. Instead, the case was taken to the Supreme Court by Alaskans for a Common Language, the group that pushed the original petition.
One member of the Court, Justice Alex Bryner, dissented, but said the entire law should have been thrown out as violating the U.S. and Alaska constitutions.
Click HERE to view the entire 89-page Supreme Court decision in PDF format.
The English-only law was put on the books by voters through an initiative in 1998, but has never been in effect. Togiak, the North Slope Borough, the Alaska Civil Liberties Union and the Native American Rights Fund quickly challenged the new law, and won an injunction that had kept it in limbo until Friday's 4-1 decision.
The upshot: In practical terms, said attorney Doug Pope, that means his clients in Togiak can continue to conduct city council meetings largely in Yup'ik, the only language some of them speak. And while public records must be in English, versions in other languages also can be provided and maintained in the same government files. But Pope also characterized the ruling as a clear victory for Togiak and the other plaintiffs. "What (the court has) said ... is that the person speaking and listening (during government business) have a right to speak in a language other than English," he said. "That's a great victory for Natives and non-English speakers."
However, attorney Ken Jacobus, one of the original sponsors of the "Official English Initiative," also claimed a measure of victory, noting that the Court let stand most of the law, including sections declaring English to be "the common unifying language of the state of Alaska ...". Jacobus said, "The whole idea was to get people to speak English because it benefits them, not to prevent them from speaking their own language".
Jan DeYoung, an assistant attorney general familiar with the case, said she was still reviewing the 89-page opinion late Friday night. "The decision allows part of it to go into effect," she said. The state now will have to figure out how to do that.
Commentary: Quite frankly, I don't give a damn if a few predominantly-Native villages in interior Alaska want to conduct some of their official business in a Native language. Many of the current generation of elders are either partially fluent or are non-fluent in English, because English fluency wasn't demanded of them at the time they reached maturity. I don't feel like forcing a bunch of 70-year Native elders to learn English at this point in their lives. After all, they were here before the rest of us. And that's why the original English Initiative not only didn't target them, but actually protected their right to do business in their languages in their villages. This problem will actually become redundant as the elders pass on and are replaced with Natives who are fluent in English because fluency was expected of them as they reached maturity. We do NOT need to force this issue among the Native communities.
What the initiative was designed to target was immigrants. Most immigrants to the United States expect to learn English and strive to do so. However, the second generation, corrupted by diversity and multicultural propaganda, starts getting uppity and demanding special rights. And no group has perfected these tactics better than Hispanics, driven by Hispanic supremacist groups such as the National Council of La Raza.
When I visit a local Wal-Mart, I see safety cones in the store inscribed with both "Wet Floor" and "Piso Mojado". Why are these cones also inscribed in Spanish? And who's to say that other groups won't start demanding such signs in their own languages, too, and sue on the basis of that. Can you envision the size of a safety cone saying "Wet Floor" in 90 different languages (the number of languages spoken within the Anchorage School District)?
A country, regardless of the origin of its citizens, must have a common language in order to be effectively unified. Look at the difficulties Canada has with bilingualism - and the two contending parties involved, English and French, are both WHITE. Bilingualism, like binationalism, does not work efficiently or effectively. Neither side remains content with equality; it is more natural for both sides to jockey for suzerainty. And this is why multiculturalism is so destabilizing.
Note that while the Alaska Supreme Court has upheld a portion of the law, it has proclaimed its intent to hold us hostage to future judicial terrorism by referring to that portion of the law they chose not to review. They threaten us with the possibility that the rest of it could be held unconstitutional at any time in the future based upon judicial whim. This illustrates the arrogance with which the judicial branch has become so suffused. Instead of embracing the interpretationist view of functioning as a co-equal branch of government, they clearly consider themselves the pre-eminent branch.
Two advocacy groups which work effectively to defend the primacy of the English language in the United States are US English and English First.